Forget the drama with Mike Vrabel, forget the terrible press conference, and forget the last offseason. The next three months are going to be what makes or breaks Ran Carthon's time as the Tennessee Titans GM.
Everything from right now until the NFL Draft is where Carthon can prove that he was the right choice to be the Tennessee Titans GM.
Let's go back to 2022 and talk about the San Francisco 49ers where Ran Carthon was part of a collaborative front office. What did he do and what made him a good candidate for the job he has now?
In 2022 the San Francisco 49ers front office was structured where John Lynch was the GM, Adam Peters was the Assistant GM, and Carthon was the Director of Player Personnel.
That meant that it was his job to take the information from his draft guy (Tariq Ahmad) and his NFL guy (R.J. Gillen) and process that information so that Lynch, Peters, and Kyle Shanahan could make decisions. The rumor is that he also did a lot as almost a mediator between the front office and the players, with Deebo Samuel's contract situation being an example of Carthon being able to make things work.
Before his two years as the Director of Player Personnel, Carthon was the Director of Pro Personnel meaning that it was his job to evaluate the 49ers and the rest of the NFL and present information and suggestions to the GM about what they should do in free agency (both with their players and with free agents).
Simply put, Ran Carthon's resume is essentially 15 years of focusing directly on team building through free agency, with very little focus on the NFL draft.
In Tennessee, those duties should fall to Anthony Robinson, the brother of former Tennessee Titans GM Jon Robinson (kidding, there is no relation).
Robinson was hired after the 2023 NFL Draft, and I wrote about how that was an excellent hire for the Tennessee Titans. To use a coaching comparison, I think Arthur Smith covered up a glaring weakness in Mike Vrabel's coaching ability in the same way that Robinson covers up a massive weakness in Carthon's resume.
To sell you on that idea, let's look at the six first-round picks that the Atlanta Falcons had when Robinson was in charge of the draft:
2019: Chris Lindstrom OG, Boston College (2x Pro Bowlers, 2x second-team All-Pro)
2019: Kaleb McGary OT, Washington (5-year starter at RT)
2020: A.J. Terrell CB, Clemson (one of the best young CBs in the NFL)
2021: Kyle Pitts TE, Florida (Pro Bowler, 1 of 8 TEs with 2,000+ yards over the last 3 years)
2022: Drake London WR, USC (back-to-back 850+ yard seasons)
2023: Bijan Robinson RB, Texas (1,500 yards as a rookie)
Pairing a draft expert like that with a GM who specializes in free agency is a perfect pairing and it leaves Carthon to focus on what he does best.
The stage is set for Ran Carthon to thrive
Now that Carthon has had a year with the Tennessee Titans and he knows what he has on the roster and what he needs on the roster, he is going to be able to make some informed decisions in free agency this offseason. With plenty of money to spend and plenty of holes to fill, Carthon can make a massive difference by identifying which players will fit this team well and then aggressively going after them.
Before he can identify free agents that are good team fits, he has to know what his team needs, and that can't happen until the Tennessee Titans hire a head coach.
That is another situation where Ran Carthon should shine. It is hard to completely understand how Carthon got the GM job if you just look at his resume. Sure, Carthon was a part of a great organization but he wasn't the GM's right-hand man.
On top of that, he has never been someone that is heavily involved with the draft process. That is a fairly massive hole in a potential GM's resume, so what did he have that made him unique and desirable as a candidate?
A big reason why Carthon has this job is that he knows how to build relationships around the league. During his introductory press conference, Amy Adams Strunk said that one of the key reasons for his hiring was, "We called as many potential references as we could find to learn more about Ran as a person, talent evaluator, and a leader. Whether current or former colleagues, the scouting community, the former teammates, the feedback was unanimous."
That sounds like lip service at first, but then throughout the season it became evident that all of the people who knew Ran Carthon loved him and were willing to go on record vouching for him.
Does that mean that he is going to be a good GM? Absolutely not, he has to actually improve this roster before we call him a good GM. However, it isn't meaningless either. The fact that Carthon leaves a good impression on everyone he works with should mean that coaches and players who have dealt with him in the past should be jumping at the chance to work with him again, right?
We saw that last year with Azeez Al-Shaair, Daniel Brunskill, and Arden Key who were former 49ers that the Titans signed this offseason. While none of those players were great, they ended up being some of the team's better players by the end of the year.
On the coaching side of things, the obvious connection here is between Ran Carthon and current Houston Texans OC Bobby Slowik. Slowik and Carthon spent time together in San Francisco and Carthon worked closely with Bobby, as well as his brother Steve Slowik (who is a scout for the 49ers).
Slowik is a hot commodity right now and he seems to be exactly what the Tennessee Titans are looking for in their next head coach, so the question is whether Ran Carthon can close the deal.
Even if Carthon can't get Slowik signed or if the Titans lose interest in Slowik for some reason, Carthon's reputation should continue to be a benefit throughout the head coaching search.
If this process drags on and it becomes clear that potential head coaching candidates aren't as interested in the Titans as they are in them, then that would be a huge red flag and it would be a blemish on Ran Carthon's reputation.
At the end of the day, Ran Carthon was made for moments like this and if he can't shine in free agency or by using his connections around the NFL, then he is going to have a short career with the Tennessee Titans. On the flip side, if he can hire the right coach and make some big moves in free agency he can earn a lot of good will from the Tennessee Titans fan base.